The shapes of literacy; at the feet of Sejong the Great in central Seoul
If you're planning a trip to Korea in the fall, mark your calendar--October 9th is "Hangul Day"--one of the few national holidays in the world to celebrate a writing system. Beneath the 20-ton bronze statue of King Sejong the Great--who spearheaded this 'new' script--is an underground museum where you can learn more about this unique alphabet.
Invented in the mid 15th century, Hangul (also spelled Hangeul in English) was conceived as a way to scientifically depict phonetic structure and to encourage mass literacy. Until then, the Korean educated classes used Chinese characters for writing, virtually guaranteeing that only the aristocracy could afford the lengthy education needed to become literate.
According to the 1446 promulgation: "A wise man can acquaint himself with them (the letters of Hangul) before the morning is over; a stupid man can learn them in the space of ten days." Seriously--the logical structure makes Hangul the easiest Asian script for Westerners to learn...
To get here via subway:
Jonggak Station (Subway Line 1), Exit 1, walk towards Gwanghwamun;
Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 6, walk towards Sejong-ro;
Gwanghwamun Station (Subway Line 5), Exit2, direct access from station.